A new stem cell study conducted by USF researchers may lead to respite for patients suffering traumatic brain injury (TBI).
In the study, partial neurological function was restored to neurologically impaired rats when adult stem cells were injected.
“It’s not a magic bullet, it’s not a miraculous cure,” he said. “What we envision with stem cell therapy is an incremental advance. Say you’re totally bedridden, then you’re able to sit down, then have a wheelchair, then able to walk with a cane … that incremental advance, to us, is significant.”
Researchers in the study exposed lab rats, which had been catheterized to recreate symptoms of TBI, to the stem cell therapy.
The rats initially displayed behavioral deficits such as impaired motor skills and dull cognition. However, after three months, the researchers dissected the animals’ brains and discovered evidence of recovery.
“The cells we transplanted, they don’t survive very well. But what they initially do is form a bridge, a bio-bridge,” Borlongan said.
This biological bridge formed by the administered stem cells was observed transporting newly created brain cells to the site of neurological injury.
The brain’s own cells effectively repaired the cells within the damaged site after the stem cell bridge was built between the neurogenic site and the repair site.
rehabilitation in conjunction with stem cell therapy would be key to neurological recovery.
The research also suggests the window for recovery may be larger than once thought. The lab rats were not treated with the therapy until one month after receiving brain injury. Previously, neurological damage was considered chronic shortly after the time of incidence, Borlongan said.
Because of the findings, Borlongan said many people have requested administration of the therapy. However, the research is still too young and experimental to conduct ethically on human subjects, he said.